Iran has for the first time injected uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into its IR-8 uranium enrichment centrifuges. The development of the next-generation centrifuges is being carried out within the framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) said.
A statement issued by the AEOI on 28 January said the injection of UF6 into the centrifuges marked an important step in the country's uranium enrichment research and development. It described the IR-8 as 'one of the most advanced centrifuges designed and built by Iranian scientists'. The design has an enrichment capacity 'about twenty times' that of the first-generation IR-1 centrifuges already in operation in Iran, and has been undergoing mechanical testing for the last three years.
AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, reported by the Mehr news agency, said the injection of UF6 was carried out according to schedule. "This measure was not a reaction to or the result of a particular event. It was fully in line with the nuclear deal", he said.
The JCPOA was signed in July 2015 by Iran and the E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA - also referred to as the P5+1 - plus the European Union), and implemented on 16 January 2016. Under its terms, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment activities, eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and limit its stockpile of low enriched uranium over the next 15 years.
Under the agreement, Iran's uranium enrichment and R&D activities are confined to the Natanz site. On the first anniversary of its implementation, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had removed excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, in line with the JCPOA requirements.
The agreement requires Iran to begin phasing out its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges "in ten years". During that time, Iran is allowed to continue to conduct enrichment R&D "in a manner that does not accumulate enriched uranium". Annex I of the JCPOA limits Iran's enrichment centrifuge R&D work to the IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 designs only. For the IR-8, only single machines can be tested for the first eight and a half years after the implementation of the agreement, after which testing of cascades of up to 30 machines may begin.
According to the Fars news agency, Iran's deputy foreign minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi said the testing of the IR-8 centrifuges was of "paramount importance" for the country's nuclear energy program. "The IR6 and IR8 centrifuges are symbols of the country's scientific and technological breakthroughs; as they will determine the future of the country's uranium enrichment", he said.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News